Posts Tagged ‘Americans With Disabilities Act’

Miss. Employer Named in ADA, Title VII Suit

The tool box that this employer drew from included disability bias and retaliation, according to federal civil rights enforcers.

A tool company operating in Water Valley, Miss., violated federal civil rights laws when it denied an employee a reasonable accommodation for her disability, fired her and then punished her for complaining about it, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed July 1. The company also denied another employee wage increases in retaliation for the filing of a charge of discrimination. Valley Tool manufactures custom tooling, including repair and part replacement.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the employees worked as sorters for Valley Tool in 2016, 2017 and 2018. When one employee disclosed she had a “blood disorder” that caused her to miss work, Valley Tool’s manager told her he would not have hired her if he had known she had a blood disorder and they thought they were hiring a “healthy” individual. Later, the company denied the employee a reasonable accommodation by telling her that she could not miss any more work until her probation expired; removed her from the work schedule’ placed her on an involuntarily leave of absence; and discharged her because of her disability and in retaliation for her complaints about discriminatory comments made about her disability. Valley Tool took these actions despite having a letter from the employee’s doctor stating she lacked any medical restrictions and was cleared to work without any limitations.

Further, the EEOC said, another employee who complained about the manager’s comment made about her colleague’s blood disorder and other workplace issues was denied wage increases after she filed a discrimination charge. Valley Tool told this employee and the EEOC that the company denied her the wage increases because she had filed the discrimination charge and the company had to spend money responding to it.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees by denying them a reasonable accommodation, subjecting them to different terms and conditions of employment, and terminating them because of a disability. The ADA also makes it unlawful to retaliate against an employee for her complaints about perceived discriminatory comments.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibits retaliation against employees because they file a discrimination charge.

The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Valley Tool, Civil Action No. 3:19-cv-00140 and EEOC v. Valley Tool, Civil Action No. 3:19-cv-00141) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, Oxford Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Candace Macon Williams of the agency’s Memphis District Office investigated the discrimination charges.

“The ADA has been in effect for almost 30 years,” said EEOC District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas. “After all this time, employers must know that their employees have a right to a reasonable accommodation absent undue hardship. Further, if an employer punishes an employee for complaining about perceived discrimination, it’s only making a bad situation worse. The EEOC will continue to fight such misconduct.”

$39,000 Settlement Closes EEOC Pregnancy Bias Suit Against New Jersey Party Supply Retailer

What employer would be so obtuse as to turn down a pregnant employee’s request for pregnancy-related care? Apparently this one.

Party City Corporation has agreed to pay $39,000 in lost wages and damages and to provide other significant relief in order to settle a pregnancy and disability lawsuit filed earlier this year by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Friday. Party City a party supply retailer based in Rockaway, N.J., and operates in the greater Houston area.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Party City fired Jahneiss Groce because of her pregnancy and pregnancy-related medical condition. The suit alleged that in December 2015, Groce sought medical care due to a pregnancy-related condition and sought a reasonable accommodation. The local store management conveyed the request to Party City’s human resources department. After obtaining additional medical information, Party City denied Groce’s request and terminated her employment on Feb. 1, 2016. The EEOC determined that Groce was discharged on the basis of pregnancy and disability, less than one year after being hired.

The EEOC charged that Party City’s conduct violated both the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 4:19-cv-00824) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Party City denied liability. The parties agreed to resolve the dispute by entering into a three-year consent decree.

On July 12, 2019, U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein, Jr. signed and entered the decree. In addition to the monetary award for Groce, the decree provides for significant non-monetary relief, including an injunction prohibiting any future discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or disability. Party City is also bound under the decree to develop training about its policies and the PDA’s and ADA’s requirements.

“The law requires companies to gather all relevant facts necessary to conduct an individualized assessment of a disabled employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of her job,” said Regional Attorney Rudy Sustaita of the EEOC Houston District Office. “The EEOC will vindicate the rights of pregnant employees who are discriminated against.”

Lloyd Van Oostenrijk, trial attorney for the Houston District Office, added, “This settlement is the best avenue to address the concerns raised by the EEOC and Ms. Groce’s complaint.”

EEOC Goes to Court With Michigan Company Over Failure to Provide Closed-Captioning Video

This employer apparently was tone-deaf to the needs of a hearing-impaired employee who needed a minor accommodation to make it through her training period.

Powerlink Facilities Management Services, a Michigan-based management and maintenance services company, has been sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for failing to accommodate a hearing-impaired employee and firing her because of her disability, the federal agency announced yesterday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Powerlink uses training videos during its orientation. Instead of providing this employee with a timely and reasonable accommodation, Powerlink did not allow her to receive orientation or start work for several months. The company claimed she could not complete its orientation process since its videos lacked closed captioning for the hearing-impaired.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). After attempting to reach a pre-litigation resolution through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Court of Michigan (EEOC v. Powerlink Facilities Management Services, Case No. 2:19-cv-12055) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking monetary relief for the employee and an injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in this type of conduct in the future.

“Refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified employee with a disability violates federal law as well as being unfair and wasteful,” explained Nedra Campbell, trial attorney for the EEOC. “Powerlink should have considered the various ways to accommodate this employee. Instead, the company lost a valuable employee and gained a federal lawsuit.”

According to its website, Powerlink Facilities Management Services was started in 2003 by Link Howard, III. The company has hundreds of employees working in the United States and Canada.

The EEOC’s Detroit Field Office is part of the Indianapolis District Office, which oversees Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and parts of Ohio.

Kroger Pays $40K to Settle ADA Suit Over Treatment of Visually Impaired Applicant

The playing field for new hires at Kroger just got a little more level.

Cincinnati-based national grocery store chain Kroger will pay $40,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Monday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Kroger offered Michael Haugabrook a courtesy clerk position at its Jonesboro, Ga., store on or about March 15, 2016. Haugabrook accepted the position and was required to attend an orientation session on March 23. Due to his visual impairment, Haugabrook requested an accommodation to complete the computer-based portion of the orientation. Kroger’s management refused to accommodate him. While Haugabrook was completing the computer assessment, he was summoned to the store manager’s office where he was immediately fired, the EEOC said.

Refusing to accommodate an employee and terminating him based on assumptions about his disability violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia (EEOC v. The Kroger Co., Case No. 1:18-cv-03095-WMR-AJB) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the $40,000 in monetary relief, the consent decree settling the suit requires Kroger to make significant changes to its new-hire process, including but not limited to providing employees with vision disabilities access to tools and resources such as magnification for its computer-based and written onboarding and training programs. To prevent similar discrimination against future vision-impaired employees, Kroger will educate its workforce on disability discrimination via training at its Jonesboro location. For the decree’s duration, Kroger will post a notice to its employees about the lawsuit and report to the EEOC all employee requests for an accommodation under the ADA.

“All too often we see individuals with disabilities who are detrimentally impacted by assumptions and stereotypes in the workplace,” said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “This settlement will assist the company in complying with the ADA by fully understanding its protections for workers with disabilities and the company’s responsibility to engage in an interactive process and provide reasonable accommodations.”

Darrell Graham, acting district director of the Atlanta office, added, “Discrimination against people with disabilities continues to be a serious and pervasive problem. Kroger’s agreement to provide resources for employees and applicants with vision impairments, as well as implement changes in its policies, shows its commitment to making the workplace accessible to all.”

Citizens Bank Sued by the EEOC Over Treatment of Call Center Supervisor With Anxiety Issues

On this July 4th, the striving for a workplace free from disability discrimination goes on.

Citizens Bank, N.A. violated federal law by failing to reassign a long-term employee to one of several vacant positions after he became disabled and sought a reasonable accommodation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed July 2.

According to EEOC’s complaint, Citizens Bank refused to provide a reasonable accommodation to a supervisor in the national banking company’s Cranston, R.I., call center after he developed anxiety and requested reassignment to a position that did not require him to field customer phone calls. The symptoms from the employee’s anxiety became so severe that he was forced to take a medical leave of absence. According to the EEOC’s complaint, Citizens refused to reassign the employee to any of the multiple vacant positions for which he was qualified and which were located within 45 miles of the call center where he had worked. When Citizens refused to either reassign the employee or discuss alternative accommodations with him unless he returned to his job in the call center, he was forced to resign, EEOC’s complaint stated.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating based on disability and requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with a disability, unless the accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the employer. The ADA explicitly recognizes reassignment to a vacant position as a type of reasonable accommodation that may be provided.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island (EEOC v. Citizens Bank, N.A., Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-00362) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.

“The ADA recognizes that sometimes the most reasonable accommodation an employer can provide is reassignment to a vacant position,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “Despite its obligation under the law, Citizens refused to consider reassignment.”

The EEOC’s New York district director, Kevin Berry, added, “Employers are required to engage in an interactive process with a disabled employee seeking a reasonable accommodation. Refusing to consider possible accommodations, or to propose alternatives, violates the employer’s obligation under the ADA.”

EEOC’s New York District Office oversees New York, Northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine

Medstar Attendance Policy Revamped in Settlement of ADA Charge Filed With EEOC

A Washington, D.C. regional health care provider is getting a makeover of its attendance policy so its conforms to federal disabilities rights law.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), MedStar Health, Inc. and MedStar Ambulatory Services, Inc. announced July 1 the successful conciliation and settlement of a charge filed with the agency under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC reached a voluntary resolution with both employers through the agency’s conciliation process following its investigation findings. Neither employer admitted to any wrongdoing or fault in violation of the statute.

In addition to addressing the concerns of the person filing the charge of discrimination, MedStar Health and MedStar Ambulatory Services agreed to implement revised attendance policies that will reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities as required by the ADA. The policies will specifically state that exceptions to their attendance policies will be made when required by the ADA as a reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities. Both employers agreed to disseminate their revised policies to all employees and to the posting of EEOC notices. MedStar Ambulatory Services also agreed to conduct training for all current supervisory and human resources employees.

“We are pleased that MedStar Health, Inc. and MedStar Ambulatory Services, Inc. worked with us to revise this matter informally and took proactive measures to ensure that individuals with disabilities will receive reasonable accommodations when needed,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Jamie R. Williamson.

EEOC Baltimore Field Office Director Rosemarie Rhodes added, “We commend MedStar Health and Medstar Ambulatory Services for working cooperatively with the EEOC to resolve this matter prior to litigation. We encourage all employers to review their policies and procedures, including attendance policies, to ensure that they provide for reasonable accommodations and equal opportunities for people with disabilities.”

The ADA prohibits workplace discrimination based on disability. The ADA requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities, unless it would pose an undue hardship.

The EEOC’s Baltimore Field Office is one of four offices in the EEOC Philadelphia District Office, which has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.

Addressing emerging and developing areas of law, including inflexible leave policies that discriminate against individuals with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan.

EEOC: Health Facility Crossed Legal Line By Rescinding Job Offer After Positive Job Screen

You can’t legally yank a job offer from an applicant simply because he or she is taking a prescribed medication.

An Oconomowoc, Wis., inpatient residential health facility violated federal law when it rescinded an applicant’s job offer because she tested positive for a prescribed medication, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed June 27. Rogers Behavioral Health provides treatment for various conditions including addiction, anxiety, depression, mood disorders and general mental health.

The EEOC’s investigation revealed that Rogers offered the applicant a position as an intake specialist. As part of her pre-employment requirements, Rogers instructed her to have a physical and a drug screen. At her physical, she disclosed that she had a prescription for Alprazolam, the generic form of Xanax, a medication commonly prescribed for anxiety. She also disclosed other medical impairments that she had. She also provided a sample for her drug screen.

Noble Diagnostics, a third-party administrator of workplace drug and alcohol tests, performed the drug screen, which showed that the applicant tested positive for Alprazolam. The doctor who performed the physical indicated on the physical examination form that she had reviewed the applicant’s drug screen and found her medically acceptable for work as an intake specialist.

Rogers failed to contact the applicant or give her the opportunity to provide additional prescription information to contest the drug screen. Rogers withdrew the job offer from the applicant by email without explaining the decision was related to her drug screen. The EEOC said that Rogers rescinded the offer because it regarded the applicant as disabled, a conclusion it reached because of her drug screen.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived disability. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Rogers Behavioral Health, Civil Action No. 19-cv-00935) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin on June 27 after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation resolution through its conciliation process.

The case has been assigned to Magistrate Judge Nancy Joseph. The EEOC is seeking full relief, including reinstatement, back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and non-monetary measures to correct Rogers’s practices going forward.

“Rogers Behavioral Health cannot hide its discriminatory intent behind a complicated pre-employment process,” said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District Office. “The plain fact is that Rogers knows Alprazolam is a common prescription medication, and that rather than acknowledging the prescription information already disclosed or giving the applicant the opportunity to correct her drug screen, it chose to rescind her job offer because it did not want to hire an employee whom it regarded as disabled.”

Julianne Bowman, district director of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, said “When employers like Rogers Behavioral Health reject qualified candidates who they believe have disabilities, they not only harm those candidates, they deprive the national economy of the valuable contributions those candidates can make.”

The EEOC’s Chicago District is responsible for investigating charges of employment discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of the agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota, with area offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.